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Dear Wendy (2004)
Silly, pretentious and not very entertaining
"Dear Wendy" is a pretentious film about some outcasts who form a secret group that tries to praise gun ownership and pacifism at the same time. While their little club with its pathetic rules and customs seems to improve their lives and empower their characters it is just a matter of time until things start to go wrong. The film probably also tries to pick up the controversial theme of gun ownership in America particularly.
I liked the premise of "Dear Wendy". I think it could have made a good serious drama about "losers" who search and find their happiness and satisfaction in an "intimate relationship" with guns and by sharing their obsession with equals and coming over their social disorders. After a while they would lose themselves in their obsession and also lose their track of reality somehow resolving in an dark and sad climax. But ... we sadly don't get that in the movie. It chose to go a different way, a way I did not like or believe.
The main characters are Dick Dandelion (played by Jamie Bell), Stevie, Susan, Huey and Freddie. What they have in common is that all of them are outsiders and socially unaccepted though we don't get much information about the 'why?'. After Dick gets his hands on a gun of which he thinks its a toy, he kind of feels more attached to it and more secure when carrying it around. When his workmate Stevie discovers it and figures out that it is a real gun, it is revealed that he himself has a fetish for weapons. Sharing this interest makes them friends and empowers them and strengthens their self consciousness. Soon they start to recruit other members who might need help in the same way. When the local police detective Krugsby (Bill Pullman) shows up the story gets more and more weird. Thinking Dick was a good guy he really wants him to be the parole officer for Sebastian who (accidentally as he says) shot someone and wants to avoid prison that way. This is stupid and from here on stupidity increases. Sebastian brings distortion into the harmony of the group. Everyone seems to like him except Dick who is envious. But the tension is minor and soon forgotten by the group and by us in the audience. When preparing a (ridiculous) plan to do something good for someone else and simultaneously regain the harmony within the group we finally come to the point where something had to go wrong but the way this happens in neither dramatic nor believable.
The film has a rather comical approach and stylized look to it. I think too much of entertainment doesn't serve the themes at all here and the film goes way over the top and makes the characters feel hardly authentic but more like comic figures. That makes the whole move feel artificial. Some/most of the dialogue is pathetic and silly. While there were a handful of laughs in there it were all stand-alone jokes surrounded by emptiness. Most of the time though they try to be funny and don't succeed ... and if that is the case, you tend to become preposterous and lose credibility and therefore the film can only be regarded as a commercial popcorn-entertainment flick that is not really entertaining anyway. I was trying hard to accept the tone but when the plots starts to kick silliness to the next level half way through I was out! That includes the events as well as the behaviour of the characters within it.
Furthermore we don't get any insight on the effect the weapons really have and how they are empowered by them and how that affects their lives because we never get shown that. We only see them in their hideout. The film simply doesn't show us anything besides the characters of the outcasts. The town seems to be empty. Pullman's character is not really in the movie at all.
The way the plot develops is dumb, the way the characters of Sebastian and another one (that I haven't mentioned in the plot summary so I wont do now) are introduced is laughable.
The ending doesn't make any sense to me and if the movie tries to say something at all, it is the wrong thing, it hits the wrong tone, its just all wrong. They don't achieve something with their behaviour and they possibly never changed and still are losers. Maybe thats the thing we should learn... that guns don't make you happy or whatever ...
Well, I think I have said enough and I think this film is silly.
I can't recommend "Dear Wendy" on any basis.
Crazy Heart (2009)
That's Harmony: Feels & Sounds exactly right
Before I start - if you are into country (/blues, rock ... good music) or maybe even into guitar playing you'll probably like this film even morecause you can also connect more than others to its musical content. There is one unwritten rule if you are learning to play the guitar. "If it feels/sounds right, it is right". This is exactly what this picture is like.
This movie not necessarily features a very original plot for parts (well most of it) but its characters make it feel like that and even more; they make it feel real.
I can tell Jeff Bridges' Oscar was well deserved. He is a special actor. For sure I never got/get to him personally (though I'd love to) but he seems to be such a great person and his acting is not from a lesser quality.
Jeff Bridges (perfectly cast) plays an old country musician Bad Blake whose great times are already gone. His career goes downhill and it's been years since he last wrote a new song. He is alcoholic and alone. On his trip through the states he is playing in small clubs in small towns - one of them is Santa Fe, Texas. Here he meets a young reporter played by Maggie Gyllenhall. She has a son but has never been happy with a man yet. She likes Bad a lot but has also doubts because of his alcoholism and fears about her son. Bad on the other hand feels like a father for the first time. Collin Ferell appears as Tommy, Bad's guitar student in earlier days and now far more successful than his old mentor. But he has not forgotten what Bad had done for him so he asks Bad to go on tour together and if he could write songs for him. Some new steps there to take for Bad, and he wants to do the right things, he is a good guy. But will some of his decision be too late? And will all soon be good again for him ... ?
It's a slow but never boring experience that always feels fresh. It moves from one good scene to another and always when you fear it is gonna lose it in the next minute we get a new piece of information, a new characteristic trait and it really works the whole movie through. There is no moment that feels like it was too long or had no substance.
These are lovable, three dimensional characters and we really care for them. We even get a little Robert Duvall in there.
On top of that of course there is high quality dialog that also delivers some wisdoms for life.
We got some funny moments, some sad moments and some moments of happiness... and none of them feel forced at any time.
The music written explicitly for the film - and actually really performed by the actors themselves - is beautiful and makes it round. Yet another the academy award! I already got the best tracks at home!
Finally the best argument that I can give you to see this movie is that after the end it left me feeling happy and satisfied and I kept sitting and listing to the music until the end of the credits ... If that is not a good sign ...
Annotation: The R - Rating is once more a ******* joke! Kids go watch this!
A great little piece of film.
A film about Truman Capote writing his very last book. A rather slow but ultimately gripping interesting experience driven forward by the performance in its center, Philip Seymour Hoffman. His Oscar was well deserved. What a great actor he is he already showed in earlier films (that I also admired: Boogie Nights, Magnolia, 25th hour ...).
His presentation of the odd, egocentric, homosexual writer Truman Capote is absolutely amazing.
For a great story for his new book he would spare no efforts and also lie to everyone around him. His sources, his workmates, his friends and finally the one he is lying most to is himself.
Famous writer Capote's attention is caught by a murder of a family in a small town near Kansas (it was Kansas, wasn't it?). He wants to write an article about it but when he gets involved in the details of the crime after having talked to the local people and police he is so taken by the case that he decides to write a whole book. To be able to write a good book and to get rich details of the material he has to talk to the murderers themselves. As the investigations and trial move along Capote starts spending more and more time with one of them, Perry. He makes him believe they were friends to get all the information he needs for his book. He lies to him he would describe the murderer how he really is and even gets them a lawyer for their plea. But he is just exploiting them as he needs more time and info for the book. For sure he tells everyone how much he cares about the murderers. And when it comes to an end Capote has already realized that he has spent so much time and effort into his work and always suppressed his emotions. Witnessing the murderers execution he is shaken to the core, questioning his morals and the sense in all that. He would never write a book again.
The first part of this film feels really fresh. Capote still a very distanced character is quite entertaining to regard.
There is a bit of a slow down in the second quarter of the film but it goes by fast as we quickly move on into the more emotional part of the movie. All the relationships around Capote are interesting most important of course the one to the prisoner Perry. We get more and more involved and it's so great to see Capote being torn between his need for glamour and being in the center of attention and a successful writer, and his personal emotions. The performances is the key to keep the audience interested all the way through.
This is a small and fine film that looks good on the surface and delivers depth in its core.
As a biographical drama this is a film for mature audiences. People with low standards and demands for their movies might claim this is a boring flick due to the slow pace I can just say: You are not sufficiently evolved cause it's not!
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Good, not great.
Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire is a story about two brothers, Jamal and Salim, who grow up in the slums. Their life is very hard and rough. After their mother is killed the two struggle to survive in the streets. They meet a girl named Latika. Jamal falls in love with her. They are exploited as beggars by one of the slum's gang bosses. They escape and get torn apart. While Jamal is lead by hope and love and keeps his mind clear, his brother becomes a product of the violent harsh times they live in and soon enters the crime business. Jamal tries more than once to find Latika and to escape and make a living together. But how, she once asks him? There are no opportunities for the poor people in the slums. You have to subdue to one of the (often) cruel rich guys to lead a passably good life, she thinks.
Not for the money but for the love Jamal joins the famous quiz show "Who wants to be a millionaire".
It's a rich story about friendship, trust, betrayal and love.
The film though an independent is very well made. Great cinematography and editing here.
I think the way the story is told following the questions in the game show to review the life of Jamal was a very good idea.
But there were some points about the plot that bothered me.
I asked myself about the security guys who first torture Jamal cause he is accused to cheat on the show. Therefore they can certainly be considered as cruel people who probably don't care much about Jamals rights. Would they even care about what he has to say, would they make the effort listening to him and if so, would they just believe him?
Jamal's little conflict with the arrogant quiz master, who fears about his fame being the most important guy in the show, was another good point in the movie though not much time was spent on this.
But then (sadly) like in many Danny Boyle movies (28 days later, the beach, sunshine (well sunshine was bad from beginning to end)) for me the last part however falls a little short. When the romance overtakes the story it feels more like a quite ordinary love story ending that is kind of forced like when Latika gets the handy of Jamals brother and is then called by Jamal sitting in the game show I think that was kind of dull.
THEN there are the scenes that wanted me to rate this movie 0/10. It's when the movie is already over and the end credits are running over the screen. When the whole cast started to dance around I cringed! What the hell is going on now!? Have I just seen a good, serious movie or was it some sort of Disney/high school musical!? What a ridiculous, cheesy and bitter note was left in my mind ...
This movie gets a
Robin Hood (2010)
Epitome of mediocrity
This new Robin Hood should be a new approach to the legend. I thought this wouldn't be a great but solid new version ... but this wasn't even that.
The story is indeed not the usual thing we already know. It tells us about the time before Robin Hood becomes an outlaw showing him fighting as a ordinary soldier in war against France. After the king dies on the battlefield and the knights who shall return his crown to England are murdered Robin Longstride(his real name here)rather coincidentally comes along and finds his (nearly) dead buddies. Now it's up to him to return not only the crown but also a sword from one of the dying knights. Robins group masquerade as the dead knights to ship over to England. Assuming the identity of the dead knight who gave him the sword Robin gets the target of the evil guys - and the King's son. While France is preparing an invasion Robin with his new identity is the one to reunite the Englishmen and bring freedom and peace.
When I first read about this I thought this is gonna be a more serious and darker version of the Robin Hood tale. But no. At times this movie was so ridiculously stupid that I cringed. There are tons of "jokes" in here that are so flat and unfunny and out of place it made me sick ... especially when parts of the audience start out laughing for no reason. This movie is the epitome of mediocrity and cheesy Hollywood "action". I also was surprised how little story there actually was. It is really Robin rushing from one incident to the other. Everything feels kind of forced. For example a scene where the king is debating with some noblemen about the rights of the poor and how he - the king - could easily gain the respect of his people they fairly disagree. Then Robin comes along and within a few sentences he convinced the king and reunites the army. The relationship between Robin and Marion doesn't really work either. All the characters stay super superficial.
As director Ridley Scott is well known for his feel for grand scale action blockbusters the battle sequences in Robin Hood are certainly well made. But we also have seen these kind of battles thousands of times before now.
The movie is definitely not something to see on the big screen for my money, and I would not even say you need to see this picture any time.
The best dream I ever had ...
Finally here is a movie to wake us up from a really bad movie year. This was the most anticipated film this year for me. I was so excited for over one year before it came out and most of my expectations were satisfied.
Christopher Nolan has worked on the script for "Inception" for about 10 years. It's the first film he is responsible for the story and of course directing all by himself since his debut "Following" from 1998 (which is worth seeking out if you haven't seen that one yet).
Regarding his former credits including one of my all time favorite films - Memento -, The Prestige and The Dark Knight it is nearly unbelievable how consistent Nolan is with his projects. One better than the other and this is another true original.
Inception deals with the theme of dreams in a complex and artful fashion and manages to mix a sophisticated, challenging idea with an action heist movie plot that leaves you breathless. Still in my opinion with the action Nolan "sadly" did make a step too much to please the mainstream audience and segments become a bit too much of an above-average chase movie that kinda ignore the great ideas that definitely are implied in the picture or at least in these action parts (especially the Rocky-Mountains-Snow sequence which is probably the weakest part of the movie) it doesn't make use of its full potential. It should have been a bit more mysterious and not that orderly for some parts, though Nolan stated he wanted to keep it as real as possible and I respect that. For that matter Nolan does a great job filming many many scenes on set, in camera, not using CGI all the time. We see a real set shifting 25 degrees, and fights in "zero gravity". Visually astounding scenes we liked to see more of compared to the huge content of standard (though well made) action movie shoot outs.
It may be not perfect but Inception is still a very good movie.
The world it creates is epic. The cast is very good and so is the score. The story is still kind of confusing at times and there are still some questions left for me to answer.
The theme of dreams is laid out so interesting in many aspects it may not only make you discuss this picture but also dreams in general.
Inception is like a wonderful dream that may not come true in the end.
I am not certain if Inception is a masterpiece, but I really think this is gonna be better the second time around and after that I'll see. I have to admit I still prefer "Memento" as Nolans outlandishly clever masterpiece.
EDIT: I've seen it a second time now and I think the movie did not quite improve or even hold up to the first time. This is NOT a masterpiece but anyway:
Inception is hands down the best movie I've seen this year.
Ex Drummer (2007)
Strange is not automatically good
It's always a pleasure for me just to see a film that's not coming from Hollywood and does not follow a standard scheme in either look or story. And hell yes - this film is different! Very bizarre and dives far deeper into the s--t than Hollywood would allow. But does that make the movie any good? Not for me.
I don't think there are spoilers here but who knows ...
The movie starts with a couple of "handicapped" guys who show up at the house of the protagonist. They are in search for a drummer to join their rock band and participate at a rock festival. The main character is a drummer and also a famous writer. He is not interested in punk music or the drums too much ... the reason he teams up with the guys is because he wants to see the extremely bad conditions they live in. These conditions couldn't be any worse. All of them live in extremely dirty run down houses. They struggle with drug addiction and other obsessions like one of them seems to be addicted to sex and at least makes the impression he could be a rapist or something. There is not too much depth to the story. It's pretty loose as we basically see the guys hanging around and sometimes preparing for the final rock show. Our drummer is always watching from a very distance. He never offers help to the poor guys rather treating them with disrespect. It seems like the only purpose to see them suffering is to feel better himself when he returns home.
The movie also deals with senseless gimmicks to make the film even stranger. For example the first scenes that are completely running backwards for no reason.
While I am into punk rock I didn't even like the music.
When we come to a bloody ending the film tries to make some meaningful statements that for me come out of nowhere and are not build on the content (cheap content anyway) of the picture before.
I really tried to believe there was more to this film - (maybe there is?) but at least I couldn't find it.
Fantastic movie - not for everyone
Lot's of reviews for this title already but I just have to write one, too.
When I saw this movie for the first time I really liked it. I finally watched it again and this time my admiration reached a peak.
This movie is fantastic in almost every way.
The cinematography is gorgeous. I love every scene, every shot of the camera, the atmosphere is amazing not to forget the creativity in presenting the pictures; colorful, original, inventive - like many Asian movies are. However many influences of famous non-Asian filmmakers can be found. I was reminded of directors like Kubrick, Fincher or Tarantino. I also loved how some of the scenes where cut and put together. The pace of the movie is also really balanced. There are times to cool down, parts when the picture takes time to develop in depth and atmosphere followed by "action" scenes that come along literally like a hammer on your head. Completed is the whole with a fantastic and perfectly placed score. I think classical music playing over violent scenes did not sound that beautiful since "A clockwork orange".
The main character (go look up his name) gives an incredible performance. Absolutely crazy, emotionally gripping and most important believable.
Not as believable may seem the plot for some people ...
A drunk man is kidnapped on the street and trapped for 15 years of his life in what looks like a shabby "hotel room". His only friend during this time is the telly. He gets food through a small shutter in the door and after being intoxicated with gas, the kidnappers clean up the room, wash his clothes and cut his hair. He never gets in contact with other people and is not told who is doing this to him or why. The reason why he is not going totally mad is his rage and need for revenge. Finally he is free again and tries to find the guys and kill them. Now this might not sound as complex as it actually is. Maybe even a bit too complex. The revelation kinda is a bit improbable but I think it still could work... and within this movie it definitely worked for me.
It's an extremely powerful movie, even disturbing not only for the gore itself. In fact this whole movie is pretty violent and therefore I can not recommend this for everybody. But it is not violence for its own sake but really has a purpose and also a motivation. This film is a complex character study about the alienation of an isolated man and how human psyche is influenced and/or manipulated.
My only little problem that I had with the movie especially the first time I watched it is the confusion. Not only the plot is quite confusing and at times hard to follow but most of the trouble I had with the picture was memorizing and assigning all these Asian names to the correct characters. They all sound so strange and similar that I was wondering more than once "Who is that person they were just talking about again?". The second time around this was not longer the case and I finally fell in love with the movie.
All in all this is an extraordinary experience that you definitely don't see very often or maybe haven't ever seen before. It is unique, compelling, violent, creative, at times funny and perfectly crafted.
Cause of some weaknesses in the plot (developement) I rate this film "only" 9/10.
So ******* see it!
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Gripping and depressing ...
HELL, I finally got it and fortunately I liked it.
We follow the main character Jacob Singer (played by Tim Robbins) who was a veteran in Vietnam through his life that - from the start - gets stranger and stranger. Having lost his son and been through the war we start to realize there is something seriously wrong with this guy who is more and more lead by fear and despair as he increasingly suffers from creepy hallucinations ... But what is that really all about?
This film is twisty and at times confusing but also very compelling. From the craftsmanship of film making this here is on a high level but what makes it work is mainly the really strong acting. Robbins performance is marvelous and we really feel with him and get in a kind of depressive mood ... yes this film is kinda depressing and certainly not a funny entertaining piece.
There are two things about the movie that bothered me. First of all there is one scene in the movie that kinda spoils its own ending - but OK. Secondly though the "surprising ending" works in a way ... from the content throughout the film there remains - for me at least - the big question after the end: "Does this really all make sense?" Considering the ending I can not directly see some of the connections between everything that happens ... but after I talked a bit about it, it kinda grew on me and ... anyway: a gripping, intelligent, well-crafted experience.
Cause of some doubts I rate this film "only" (a weak) 8 / 10.
Clash of the Titans (2010)
The trailer is all you need to see ...
After I had seen the trailer for this movie I already assumed it would not be a good one and after reading some other reviews my expectations were really low. Still "Clash of the titans" was disappointing on every level. I was really surprised how bad this movie was.
The story and how it builds up is truly a joke. Messy as hell. The "Introduction" is like 2 minutes long and the movie really doesn't want to take any time for story explanations or character development, no details, no depth. Many scenes seem unfinished and really raw. The dialog is lame as hell as there are lots of standard / cliché phrases thrown at your head. Sometimes it gets really cheesy as well.
Now even the various action scenes that are poorly put together can't create a bit of entertainment and that is where the movie finally fails. (As I mentioned I did not expect too much of a story though it was executed even worse than i thought before)But also the fight scenes are terribly boring especially the "final battle". The gods do not seem to participate at all.
Watch the trailer because as I was expecting it spoiled EVERY "highlight" from the movie. There is nothing more to it that you could miss and the trailer also got a cool soundtrack thats not in the actual film (at least from what i remember?).
If you wanna see a trashy B-movie then you might enjoy it a little bit ... otherwise skip this! For God's sake!